The Quimsacocha wetlands are an Andean páramo with natural fresh-water lakes. This highly sensitive environment is at constant risk because of urban pressure and large-scale mining activities (Duarte-Abadía & Boelens, 2016; Hidalgo-Bastidas et al., 2017; Mena-Vásconez et al., 2016). In Quimsacocha, the government of Rafael Correa (2007-2017) promoted mega-mining projects under promises such as ‘Good living’ and ‘Water as Human Right’ aiming to introduce the idea of ‘Mining for the Good Living’ in communities’ imaginaries, representing mining as essential for societal progress and wellbeing (Valladares & Boelens, 2019). However, technical reports (Kuipers, 2016), suggest that such projects have high risks for the environment, the communities, and the water system.
The affected communities are resisting, framing new (re)territorialization processes through counter-conducts that challenge the dominant power and aim to generate new cultural-material hydrosocial territories (Boelens, 2015; de Vos et al., 2006; Hoogesteger et al., 2016). Farmers, indigenous groups, and environmentalists have been strongly protesting against these mining projects since 2004, advocating for their rights to access safe water supply, on which they depend for dairy farming, agriculture, and everyday life (Sacher & Acosta, 2012). Since 2019, the communities achieved the realization of two official consultations regarding the future of mining, opening up the possibility for citizens to prohibit mining activities in Quimsacocha (Acosta & Cajas Guijarro, 2020). In 2022, the FOA (Federación de Organizaciones Indígenas y Campesinas del Azuay) presented a legal protection that officially stopped the mining interventions in the area for being considered unconstitutional (Sánchez-Mendieta, 2022).
Acosta, A., & Cajas Guijarro, J. (2020). Democracia o barbarie minera. Cuenca por el agua, Cuenca por la vida.
Boelens, R. (2015). Water, Power and Identity: The Cultural Politics of Water in the Andes [Book]. Taylor and Francis Inc. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315867557
de Vos, H., Boelens, R., & Bustamante, R. (2006). Formal law and local water control in the Andean region: A fiercely contested field [Article]. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 22(1), 37-48. https://doi.org/10.1080/07900620500405049
Duarte-Abadía, B., & Boelens, R. (2016). Disputes over territorial boundaries and diverging valuation languages: the Santurban hydrosocial highlands territory in Colombia. Water International, 41(1), 15-36. https://doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2016.1117271
Hidalgo-Bastidas, J. P., Boelens, R., & Vos, J. (2017). De-colonizing water. Dispossession, water insecurity, and Indigenous claims for resources, authority, and territory. Water History, 9(1), 67-85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12685-016-0186-6
Hoogesteger, J., Boelens, R., & Baud, M. (2016). Territorial pluralism: water users’ multi-scalar struggles against state ordering in Ecuador’s highlands. Water International, 41(1), 91-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2016.1130910
Kuipers, J. (2016). Informe Pericial sobre los proyectos Loma Larga y Río Blanco. Provincia de Azuay.
Mena-Vásconez, P., Boelens, R., & Vos, J. (2016). Food or flowers? Contested transformations of community food security and water use priorities under new legal and market regimes in Ecuador’s highlands. Journal of Rural Studies, 44, 227-238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.02.011
Sacher, W., & Acosta, A. (2012). La minería a gran escala en Ecuador. Abya-Yala.
Sánchez-Mendieta, C. (2022, 14-07-2022). Loma Larga: segundo proyecto minero que se para en Cuenca. El Mercurio. https://elmercurio.com.ec/2022/07/14/segundo-proyecto-minero-paralizado-en-cuenca/
Valladares, C., & Boelens, R. (2019). Mining for Mother Earth. Governmentalities, sacred waters and nature’s rights in Ecuador. Geoforum, 100, 68-79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.02.009
PhD researcher: Catalina Rey Hernández
Worldwide, the management of rivers and riverine landscapes has been based on technocratic expert knowledge, involving top-down processes of landscape design, territorial planning, and related social-material transformations. These processes directly affect riverine communities and livelihoods, triggering local confrontations with -and adaptations to- the imposed designs and related forms of socio-material ordering. In this context, this research aims to better understand: a) how such riverine landscape design and territorial ordering plans are shaped and re-created by policies, institutional and normative practices, and specific powerful interest groups; b) how such designs transform socio-material relations and practices in local riverine communities; c) how communities resist, negotiate and transform the imposition of such designs and territorial ordering plans; and d) in which ways counter designs and counter geographies can support resistance groups and networks to express their own riverine understandings, aspirations, and interests. The research will focus on the cases of the re-design of the Berkel River (NL) and the contestations around large-scale mining projects in the Quimsacocha wetlands (EC). The research will build on insights from the social construction of technology scholarship and notions of actor-network theory to better understand and theorize the role of ‘designs’ in the contestation and transformation of riverine spaces in which a multiplicity of actors try to create a specific social, technological and environmental order (a hydrosocial territory).